Michael Danby MHR

Tel: (03) 9534 8126
Fax: (03) 9534 1575

117 Fitzroy Street
St Kilda VIC 3182

PO Box 2086
St Kilda West 3182

Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports)(4.30 p.m.) —
May I begin by congratulating the member for Wakefield on his nonpartisan election to this chamber, and also to you, Mr Deputy Speaker Jenkins.

My presence here today, indeed my existence, is an accident of history. My grandfathers fought on opposite sides during the Great War. If either had been more successful at their deadly craft, one side of my family might not have existed. Fate intervened. Both returned safely from the Western Front to their respective homelands of Germany and Australia. History intervened again to see their children, my dear parents, meet and marry in St Kilda after World War II. Before I return to the odyssey that took me all the way from my parents' home at 117 Brighton Road, Elwood, to my electoral office at 117 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, and to this great debating chamber of our nation, let me reflect on the great Labor tradition in Melbourne Ports, the constituency I have the honour to represent into the new century, Australia's second century as a nation.

Melbourne Ports has existed since the election of the first federal parliament. Our first Labor representative was Jim Matthews, a South Melbourne tailor, elected in 1906. Matthews held the seat until 1931. Melbourne Ports, based on our docks and factories, was one of the safest Labor seats in the country; in fact, on four occasions, the candidates were elected unopposed.

In 1931 Matthews retired and was succeeded by Ted Holloway. Originally a bootmaker, Holloway had been a leader in the struggle against conscription during the First World War and later, during the twenties, President of the Melbourne Trades Hall. At the 1929 election, when conservative Prime Minister Stanley Melbourne Bruce had tried to abolish the arbitration system, Holloway defeated Bruce in his safe seat of Flinders—one of the great upsets in Australian electoral history. So recent history was not the first time that people from Melbourne Ports, the site of Webb and East Swanson Dock, have taught grand political lessons to conservatives from the electorate of Flinders.

Holloway, who later transferred into Melbourne Ports, was a minister in the Scullin Labor government. His grandson came to our campaign rooms, like many hundreds of local people, to volunteer assistance in helping make Kim Beazley Prime Minister.

Ted Holloway retired in 1951, and the new member was Frank Crean, the father of our Deputy Leader, the member for Hotham. Frank was one of the first Labor members with formal training in economics, and he rapidly became Labor's spokesman on economic matters. In 1972 Frank Crean became Treasurer in the Whitlam Labor government. He served as Minister for Overseas Trade and later became Deputy Prime Minister, a post he held until the government was dismissed by Sir John Kerr on 11 November 1975.

Frank Crean retired in 1977 and now, though 82, he is still a well-known figure around our community. I often see him at the fresh food markets around Melbourne Ports. He continues to do the Labor Party great service; in the recent election he did two shifts handing out the Labor ticket at his usual post at the Middle Park Primary School.

Frank was succeeded as member for Melbourne Ports by my predecessor, Clyde Holding. Clyde had been a state member [start page 504] since 1962, and he was Leader of the Opposition from 1967 to 1977. Holding became Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the Hawke government. He succeeded in returning Uluru to Aboriginal ownership. Clyde has great empathy with the Aboriginal people, including the local Wurrundjeri or Bunerong language people. It is an empathy I intend to continue.

Throughout this time Melbourne Ports has changed dramatically. Over the past 30 years factory employment has migrated to the outer suburbs, property values have risen and areas like South Melbourne, Albert Park and Elwood have filled with university educated professionals. It is the centre of a thriving information technology and multimedia industry.

Melbourne Ports has also attracted many immigrants, especially from Asia and Eastern Europe. There has been a long established Jewish presence in East St Kilda and Caulfield. St Kilda has also become the centre of Melbourne's gay and lesbian community—perhaps because, as long as I can remember, it has always had a tolerance of diversity.

Melbourne Ports also has the largest concentration of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Doorknocking Westbury Street, East St Kilda, is like visiting a street in Moscow. Perhaps I attended the most unusual election meeting during the recent campaign. It was held by the Soviet War Veterans League—men and women, some of whom fought from Stalingrad to Berlin. These heroes have legitimate concerns about inequitable allocation of veteran entitlements, and I intend to take them up in this House.

It is also the home of a substantial Greek community with its wonderful soccer team and stadium, the mighty South Melbourne Hellas. The result is one of Australia's most socially diverse and cosmopolitan electorates, extending from working-class Port Melbourne through to middle-class Caulfield and taking in the entertainment area of St Kilda and the new residential developments in Southbank.

Despite the decline in its traditional working-class base over the years, the Labor Party has held the loyalty of Melbourne Ports voters. All in all, Melbourne Ports is a community where some people are struggling to make their next million but many are struggling to make their next meal. Around the corner from my office, the Sacred Heart Mission every lunchtime serves over 500 people in a soup kitchen.

With all this difference, we are a community of tolerance, a community united by certain values. We value the strengths and contributions of the rainbow of cultural groups and backgrounds in our community. We understand how that diversity not only strengthens the social fabric but also gives us competitive advantage in a world of immense opportunity for Australian companies exporting both goods and services.

Our result at the election in Melbourne Ports, my first election, was satisfying. Despite some further unfavourable demographic changes, we essentially maintained Labor's previous support. Particularly pleasing was the fact that in my electorate One Nation did not have a single poll worker at a single booth at any time on election day. With more than two-thirds of their donkey vote flowing directly on to me—hardly their favourite candidate—it is my contention that in no other seat did they record a lower real vote.

This reflected the mood in our electorate. In the pre-election period we collected signatures of nearly 10,000 locals who petitioned the Prime Minister to take a stronger stand against the intolerance of One Nation. As Rabbi Joseph Gutnick, a local, told the Melbourne Age:

I do not in any way believe the Prime Minister is a racist. But he has mishandled it. He wasn't strong enough. We have to go to a higher platform when it comes to deciding the future of Australia facing the year 2000.

And now of all people, I sit next to the new member for Oxley—and he is a far more agreeable member than the previous one.

Let me turn to Labor's magnificent local team, which organised dozens of functions between the preselection and the election and street stalls every weekend for a year. We had many people on the frontbench who came to assist the campaign. Many thanks for the positive impact on the electorate made by the Leader of the Opposition; the Deputy Leader of the Opposition; Senators Faulkner and Ray; [start page 505] the members for Holt, Canberra, Dobell, Werriwa and Kingsford-Smith; former Prime Minister Bob Hawke; and New South Wales Premier Bob Carr, all of whom participated in the year-long Melbourne Ports campaign.

For my relative equilibrium, I want to thank my dear partner, with her delightful Portuguese surname, Amanda Mendes Da Costa, my beloved children, Byron and Laura, and my brother Simon and his family. To the three musketeers, Andrew Hockley, Henry Pinskier and Andrew Landeryou, you answered every call from a frenetic candidate. So did my good friend Luisa Bazzani, who, if all is going according to schedule, may actually be in `Labor' at the moment! Good luck, Luisa. I also thank Ari Suss, Tova Tron, Debra Heatley, Tony Butler, Melissa Scott and Adam Carr who staffed our electoral office. Thank you also to Zoran Kovacic, Nathan Shafir, Marcia Pinskier, Phil Zajac, Bill Richards—who is here in the gallery—Ann Furness, Bunna Walsh and many, many others who made an invaluable contribution.

Labor throws up many wonderful political dynasties, such as the Creans locally, but I was blessed during the election period with Bill Landeryou, who descended as Tennyson described `like a wolf on the fold'. He soon whipped our enthusiasts into a tightly organised machine. There are three other Labor figures who have responsibility for Labor's new chapter in Melbourne Ports. Barry Cohen, a distinguished former member of this House, has always been available to me. His good humour, wise counsel and fatherly interests have sustained me. My mentor, the first woman Speaker of this House, Joan Child, has nurtured me since she oversaw my political apprenticeship as a candidate for Goldstein in 1990 following her retirement. Finally, to Mary Easson, the former member for Lowe, my first President of Young Labor, and her husband, Michael, I thank you for your great faith in me, particularly during the last few wilderness years.

I also want to thank my supporters at AIJAC, where I was the editor of the Australia-Israel Review for a number of years. At AIP, as it was then called, I spent a great deal of time researching and writing about the ugly face of Australian politics—extremism. If Jeff Kennett had promised to chase One Nation down every burrow, in those days he would have probably found me there already. I learnt that the bright light of scrutiny almost always was enough to challenge extremism. Facts, logic and evidence were the weapons we used, and we managed to win many of these debates. We helped inform the national debate about the Middle East in Australia, and we stood up for democracy in that region.

It is appropriate that I also thank that fine organisation the Shop Assistants Union, where I worked for a number of years. I felt privileged to have worked there; I still do. Under the leadership of Michael Donovan and Joe de Bruyn, the SDA is one of the fastest growing unions in the nation. It deals professionally with employers, works tirelessly through its members and employs some of the most talented people in industrial relations today.

In Melbourne Ports, while we question what globalisation means for us, we understand its basic premise that national borders ought not restrict unnecessarily the free flow of goods and services, people and ideas, and capital and growth around the world. Fortress Australia is a dying if not dead notion. Forthright Australia should be the description we give ourselves as a nation—forthright enough to compete not just in sport but also in information technology, as many of our bright young companies in Melbourne Ports do today; forthright enough to achieve true and formal independence from the United Kingdom; forthright enough in the world to never shy away from defending human rights.

We need a government forthright enough to stand up to those in the community who seek to exploit those who are threatened by the changes in our economy; a government forthright enough never to sell its soul to racist wedge politics. We need a government that understands that training and education can provide a springboard for export success for industry. The answer is government playing its legitimate role as the provider of necessary infrastructure for Australian companies to use to assist them to grow.

On this side of the chamber we understand full well that it is our mission to further a high wage, high growth economy. The old industries of the past that relied on tariffs can no longer deliver sustainable high wages for Australian workers, but the ingenuity of Australians, the talent of our young people and the quality of our universities have enabled us not just to see but to actually create a real prospect of radically reinventing our country's economy.

I note with concern the words of the newly elected member for Barker, an adherent of Friedman and Hayek, who said that his ideological commitment was to freedom of choice and that we ought never to force a citizen to do anything in that citizen's interest as long as it did not harm anyone else. That innocuous sounding statement is the intellectual cloak to cover the Liberal Party's new pursuit of voluntary voting. That is their dream. It is a dangerous and divisive dream. It says to those often excluded from decision making, `You can't make a difference. You're too destitute to concern yourself with politics. Leave it to us.'

Our road traffic laws, by contrast, provide for the compulsion to wear a seatbelt. It is true that driving around without a seatbelt and crashing your skull through the windscreen does not harm anyone, but does that mean that we should not as a community be concerned about it? Does it mean that the community does not pay for it? The idea of voluntary voting is an equally unAustralian ideologically driven idea. It would diminish a key part of our citizenship. It would remove one of the responsibilities that we each owe each other as citizens. It would send a message to the young, the poor, the disenfranchised, the excluded and the unemployed, `You are not important enough to vote. Voting is for the educated and propertied elite.'

In my home state of Victoria we have a state government that is too clever by half. It has allowed gambling to run amok. It has ignored the consequences of doing so. It points to the Melbourne Aquatic Centre in Albert Park and other worthy monuments. Those facilities are excellent, but the despera tion of tens of thousands of Victorians has paid for them. It is too high a price. There have been too many suicides, too many bankruptcies and too many marriage break-ups caused by gambling. I congratulate the Treasurer, the member for Higgins, for establishing a national inquiry into the effects of gambling. Whether or not it was motivated by attempts to score points off the chief spruiker of casinos, the Premier of Victoria, matters not. As the member for Sydney said:

We do a great disservice to the people we represent if we assume that they are looking for easy answers or glib pronouncements. We have to be prepared to rethink our own assumptions; to see merit in our opponents where it exists.

Labor is a compassionate party. We abhor social Darwinism—except perhaps in preselections. In surviving the long process from preselection to election, my major disappointment is that my father, Fred, did not live to see this day. He and my late mother, Margaret, would have been proud to see me here. My father passed away on the eve of the preselection.

What a positive reflection on Australia and the Labor Party that just one generation after he came to this country as a refugee from Nazism, his son could win a seat in federal parliament. All his life I saw by his bedside pictures of his murdered parents, Bruno and Margarethe Danziger. Both perished in that paradigm of evil established under the swastika. My grandfather, a decorated World War I veteran, died in KZ Theresienstadt and my grandmother in Auschwitz. Placing their names in the record of a great democratic institution like this is proof that Hitler's daemonic plan did not succeed.

Honourable members —Hear, hear!

Mr DANBY —On behalf of my family and other families with similar backgrounds, I express our gratitude that here in tolerant Australia the doctrine of a fair go lives on and every person is judged by the content of their character. Given my family experience, I have a lifelong loathing of the two evil empires this century brought forth, whose infamy is their epitaph. But the Cold War is now over. The welcome destruction of communism, like [start page 507] Nazism before it, has ended the polarisation of the world.

Not an end of ideology nor an end of history but a new international future opens with the new millennium. It is not coincidental that peace has broken out in South Africa, Ireland and the Middle East. This was never clearer than in the brave handshake we saw in the Rose Garden in Washington some years ago. In a past life, when I edited a small newsletter on the Middle East, I had the great honour of introducing Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin at an international conference.

I do not have the military record of Graeme Edwards, the member for Cowan. My military experience is restricted to a couple of years in the Reserve Officer School at Puckapunyal. But I do know that Rabin's handshake with Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, took even more courage than his years as a general ever demanded. His tragic assassination only underscored the necessity of his deed of peace.

Reflecting on my upbringing, it is as though the boundaries of Melbourne Ports were within my mind. My mother, an Australian Hairdresser of the Year in 1950, was a volunteer at Citizen Welfare in St Kilda and worked with the former member for Lalor to get a library in St Kilda. I can remember attending my first football match at the Junction Oval in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, when St Kilda still played there. I remember shopping in Acland Street with my mother in the early 1960s when it was like the lower East Side of New York in the 1920s. As a pupil at Elwood Central, I lost my first footy in the canal just up from where the 1920s gangster Squizzy Taylor had an escape tunnel to Glenhuntly Road.

As I reflect on my childhood, I cannot help but think how life seemed easier and people a little friendlier back then. I cannot imagine when I was growing up that any government would have closed the only social security office in our local community that desperately needs such services. I cannot imagine even Sir Robert Menzies talking about `efficiency dividends' and prioritising ideology over the demonstrated needs of the Australian people.

I will not recite Mr Emerson's—the member for Rankin—seven pillars of wisdom for the creation of a just society. However, describing the creation of the Australian equivalent of LBJ's Great Society, he argued that we had:

. . . a government obsessed with ideology of unfettered markets and totally apathetic to the appalling social consequences of their free market dogma. They seek market solutions with heartless human consequences.

And that:

We should not be continually obliged to justify socially responsible policies in terms of the budget bottom line.

When speaking about the recent fate of the Gingrich Republicans, Stephen Dorrell in the Spectator had a warning for the current coalition government. He said:

We seemed to have forgotten that although the hubbub of the marketplace provides the essential heartbeat of a successful society, most of us prefer to live in quieter neighbourhoods.

He also said:

We need to trade in an open market, but we want to live in a community.

In Melbourne Ports we live in such a community. I hope I will always do credit to that place, to my family, to my friends, to my heritage and to my other family—the ALP.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins) —Before I call the honourable member for Cook, I remind the House that this is the honourable member's first speech. I ask the House to extend to him the usual courtesies.


Authorised by Michael Danby 117 Fitzroy Street St Kilda VIC 3182